Category Archives: Political commentary

A People’s Embassy (blog)

Sign 2 Crop.pngNext week, as Parliament resumes, I will mount a protest against corruption of the Parliament, namely a People’s Embassy – to our Parliament. See the explanation on the dedicated page A People’s Embassy.

Corruption of our democratic system is flagrant, but hardly commented upon. Politicians accept money from the rich and do favours for the rich, against the known wishes of the people. It may be all nudge-wink, but it is plainly there and plainly subverting our society.
Several pledges will be available for politicians and candidates to sign up to. The most important are the Sunshine Pledges, to reveal contacts and financial support in real time, and to limit donations to individuals and small amounts.

What might we be?

Professional, disciplined, pragmatism over purity: so enthuse the commentators about another highly-managed national Labor conference.

Don’t end the crimes against humanity being committed on Manus and Nauru, don’t bother with a human rights charter for Australia, address the housing bubble through the housing supply rather than the money supply, propose some new (but not too dramatic) policies on inequality and reconciliation, drop a few crumbs to the complainers. Don’t even think of mentioning the highly counter-productive ‘alliance’ with a rogue super-power. Global w– … what?

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Score voting: a simpler, less distorting measure of voters’ will

Score voting avoids the vagaries and gaming that are intrinsic to preference ranking systems. It is simpler and more reliably reflects the will of voters. You have probably used it if you have completed a survey. We should use it in political elections.

The 2018 Victorian election has turned up another result in which ‘preference whispering’ by minor parties has distorted the will of the people ($, William Bowe at Crikey), if we take the will of the people to be indicated by first-preference votes.

Minor parties scored 25% of upper house seats from 20% of first-preference votes, whereas the Greens scored only one seat with votes that exceeded almost all minor-party votes individually. In one case a primary vote of 1.3% beat a Greens primary vote of 13.5%.

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The Myth of the Robust Deregulated Economy

The economic ‘reforms’ of the 1980s are supposed to have set Australia up for an unprecedented run of prosperity: 27 years, and counting, without a recession. The economy’s robustness is supposed to have saved us from the Global Financial Crisis. In fact our economy has been unstable, and its performance has been mediocre verging on anaemic. Any appearance of robust prosperity is due to a huge run-up of debt, some direct intervention, high immigration, overwork, selective blindness and over-active imaginations.

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Immigration debate: the menagerie in the living room

 

Many assertions are being made about Australia’s rates of immigration and population growth, but it’s hard to find a coherent discussion of the issue. There’s not just an elephant but a menagerie of ignored creatures lurking around the living room.

The elephant in the middle of the room is the cost to society of ‘durable assets’ for each new person, imported or home-grown. Durable assets include not just infrastructure like roads, trains, water and electricity but houses, shops and schools. That cost is sensibly estimated by sustainability researcher Jane O’Sullivan to be around $500,000 per person. Some of that cost is public, borne by governments, and some is borne by the private sector.

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Lords of Western Civilisation

RouenCathedralEvidently Tony Abbott and John Howard feel western civilisation is under threat. Actually they’d be right about that, at least regarding the image of it they seem to hold.

They wanted to set up a big new teaching program at the Australian National University, funded by the Ramsay Centre, even though ANU already has many courses on the topic. As Tony Abbott wrote in Quadrant magazine, the program was to be not so much about western civilisation as in favour it.

Ultimately the ANU withdrew from negotiations because of the unprecedented level of micromanagement demanded by the Ramsay Centre, a level the ANU saw as inconsistent with its core value of academic freedom. This has triggered another fierce round of culture wars.

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